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Reborn

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He rode for days until the line between Midgard and Valhalla seemed blurred. Ubbe couldn't bring himself to challenge Lagertha for the throne of Kattegat and to avenge his mother. He knew it was his duty, but how could he inflict the same pain and grief on Bjorn? He didn't want to fight against his brother and he knew it would be unavoidable if he followed the path that looked so easy for Ivar. The path of blood and endless revenge. Ubbe didn't want to walk in circles through the road of sorrow and anger.

 

But it was not that simple, being part of this family meant he had to pick a side and fulfill expectations that wouldn't bring him happiness. Ubbe thought being a King would be a completely different thing when Ragnar asked him so many years before and he naively replied it was his desire.

 

Ubbe thought being a King was making sure the crops would grow and the cattle would reproduce to fill his people's bellies during the harsh Winter; and performing sacrifices to the Gods of those things were not happening. Ubbe believed being a leader would be listening to the people's problems and finding a peaceful solution and not adding more to their suffering.

 

Ubbe watched through his childhood as Ragnar would leave with his men to raid and come back with riches and slaves. In his childish eyes, his father was the greatest warrior that ever lived and he wanted to follow in his footsteps. But the first time Ubbe saw the truth about the raids was when Ragnar dragged Hvitserk and him to Paris. It was not glorious watching his father murdering that woman he promised freedom to. Yidu wouldn't be remembered in Ragnar's legacy. It was also the first time he had a glimpse of what slavery truly was.

 

Margrethe shared with him some stories about how her village was sacked and she was taken into slavery. She told him how the first man to ever touch her took pleasure in inflicting pain on her inexperienced body. She didn't cry while speaking, but Ubbe noticed how her lips trembled and Margrethe flinched when he tried to pull her into his embrace.

 

Margrethe mentioned how he started sharing her with his eldest son and that's when she saw the chance to lessen her suffering. Her master's son was not even close to his father in cruelty. Margrethe discovered he preferred when he was able to please her. She used the only weapon she had to convince the young man to ask for her as a wedding gift. Her relief was short-lived for the bride didn't want to share the attention and asked him to sell Margrethe. That's how she ended up in Aslaug’s household.

 

Ubbe felt as trapped as Margrethe sometimes. Growing up with his fate fixed to attend other's desires was a terrible burden. At least being a Ragnarsson granted him the privilege of freeing Margrethe. He knew part of his satisfaction was challenging Lagertha, but seeing Margrethe smiling as she walked as a free woman after so many years of servitude was worth it. Ubbe hoped this small action of mercy could balance the darkness of other actions, even if he thought he was not different from the man that liked to hear from her mouth he was the best lover she has ever had. As that man, Ubbe used Margrethe to protect his pride.

 

He couldn't bring himself to truly forgive Margrethe though. Knowing she participated in Lagertha's scheme haunted him. Ubbe knew as a slave she had no choice, but thinking she used him and Sigurd as she did with her first master was a blow he couldn't recover from. He liked to think they had something special, but it seemed it has not been enough for Margrethe to alert them of Lagertha's plan. But Ubbe would never know what was to live in fear of being beaten for not other reason than a bored master. Ubbe couldn't understand what was to survive and fight for the next meal. Maybe partially blaming Margrethe was a way out of madness and despair. A way for Ubbe not to hate himself knowing he stayed in Kattegat to protect Aslaug and failed. The worst thing was nothing would change that and bring his mother back to life.

 

And so Ubbe rode away from the accusatory eyes that would never allow him to forget. Ubbe fled from the woman sitting on the cursed throne. Ubbe walked away from the woman that demanded of him to spill the blood of his brothers.

 

Ubbe knew what was to lose two brothers and he didn't want to repeat. Two brothers for on the day Ivar threw the axe against Sigurd, Ubbe lost him too. Ubbe denied for some time, but he couldn't ignore Ivar was changing into something he feared. He was frightened that Sigurd's absence didn't cause Ivar's heart to ache as much as his own. Ubbe was scared Ivar couldn't feel at all.

 

Ubbe didn't know where to go exactly. He just wanted to put the more distance possible between the place he would reborn and the bittersweet memories. Ubbe wanted to find a place where people were so busy with their lives that wouldn't suspect an outsider to be a son of Ragnar.

 

He would stop during the night and proceed with the journey even before the sunrise. Ubbe spent a few days in a small city here and there but left as soon as he heard people talking about how the sons of Ragnar gathered an army no one has ever seen. His journey was starting to feel fated to failure when he arrived in another village. He dismounted and walked, holding the reins of his horse.

 

At distance Ubbe noticed a young girl and a woman who could be her older sister. They were loading a wagon and getting ready to leave. Ubbe smiled, walking to them.

 

“Hello!” Ubbe whispered while the maiden was leaning down to catch something on the ground. He knelt at her feet, taking the knife she was searching for and handing it to her. He smiled, watching her eyes widening in surprise for a moment. Her amazement being replaced by caution as she straightened her back and gulped.

 

“Thank you!” she whispered warily and Ubbe found out he liked the sound of her voice. He wished she would talk more. He nodded, staring at her and wondering how long until she avoided his eyes in embarrassment. None of them seemed to notice her younger sister, Eydis, watching them with a little smile on her lips.

 

“Do you know if anyone needs an extra hand to farm?” Ubbe’s stare made Signy uncomfortable, but she kept her eyes on his blue ones. Signy shifted her weight from one foot to the other, gulping and trying to think about anyone who could take a stranger in. In a small town where everyone knew each other, the arrival of strangers was met with suspicion and usually meant trouble. Signy didn't know why she cared if he would have a shelter to sleep in, but she found herself worried he would be forced to look for a place to stay elsewhere.

 

“Every farmer I know would make good use of an extra hand, but none of us can afford a servant.” Signy felt a lump in her throat, imagining this said Ubbe would walk away.

 

Why am I feeling this way?

 

“I would work for a place to stay and food for now.” Ubbe leaned down, grinning at her without noticing. Her breath hitched in her throat and Signy looked away embarrassed. She hoped Ubbe hasn't noticed her flushed cheeks.

 

“What is happening here?” A hoarse voice interrupted them and Ubbe took a step back not to anger whoever seemed to be related to her. He sighed, unsure about why the thought she was married was disappointing. He wouldn't stay much time and couldn’t be involved with anyone.

 

Eydis broke the uncomfortable silence, blurting, “This man wants to work for a place to stay and some food, Father.”

 

“Is that true?” Olaf stared at Ubbe, raising his eyebrows.

 

“Yes!” Ubbe replied enthusiastically, glancing at Signy.

 

“I was taught to introduce myself before asking for favors.” The girls’ father stated dryly, making Ubbe turn his attention to him.

 

“I’m sorry! Where are my manners, huh? My name is Rognvald…” Ubbe had to think quickly about a name, but it didn’t seem to completely appease Olaf’s suspicion.

 

“Only Rognvald?” He asked, pressing his lips into a thin line, “No one comes out of nowhere. I’m Olaf, son of Gunnar! These are my daughters, Eydis,” Olaf placed a hand on the youngest girl's shoulder, “and Signy.” Ubbe felt his mouth instantly dry, noticing how flushed were Signy’s cheeks

 

“I have no family left, so forgive me if I don’t want to remember them.” Ubbe swallowed the lump in his throat as he thought about how his family was torn apart.

 

“I can feel you’re a good man, let’s see if you’re trustworthy.” Olaf said nothing more, walking to the loaded wagon pulled by two horses. Eydis ran to her father and Olaf helped her on the wagon. Signy smiled as she passed by and Ubbe knew he should follow.